Last week on 23/17: After trudging the 3.2-mile walk of the destitute to Grand Prix Las Vegas, your hero cut an X-2 swath through the field to make his second-ever day two.

I’ve been at a lot of Grand Prix over the past three years, since I started going to big-time Magic events—nine in all. And I’ve never left town on Saturday after bombing out of the main event; I’ve always stayed for Sunday, and whatever side events they had on offer. But it always felt a little ancillary: You would hear announcements directed at “Grand Prix competitors,” and hear, across the hall, the called drafts: “Open pack ‘A’ and count out 14 cards. Pick up your pack. You have 40 seconds. Draft! Lay out your pack.”


And though it didn’t feel bad, playing in whatever side event you were in, especially if you were doing well—and maybe you only half-heard the announcements across the hall, and stopped hearing them after a while—you wanted to still be in contention. So a couple of Sundays ago in Las Vegas, when me and Matt Jones and Dave “Bones” McCoy were in a scrum waiting to enter the hall, I felt good when the doors were opened and I knew exactly where I needed to be: around an eight-person draft table.


It was cold in the Cashman Center that day, boys and girls, the heat of 4,500+ bodies from the day before having been drastically reduced. I rolled down the sleeves of my blue oxford shirt and went to work.

At X-2, I knew from the size of the event, and from Twitter speculation from those who are more in the know than I am, that I was mostly dead for top eight before having even started the day. But I also knew that a Pro Tour invite was in the offing if I could manage to win two drafts in a row. Not a short order by any means, but not impossible.

Draft No. 1

In my first pack I snapped up a Scion of Oona and never looked back—the faeries just kept flowing, and I ended up with what I thought was an utterly sick, low-curve faeries deck. Later I followed it up with a first-pick Kira, Great Glass-Spinner. Here’s the deck:


16-Land UB Faeries

Creatures (19)
Kira, Great Glass-Spinner
Spellstutter Sprite
Echoing Truth
Marsh Flitter
Scion of Oona
Deepcavern Imp
Mothdust Changeling
Thieving Sprite
Riftwing Cloudskate
Latchkey Faerie
Errant Ephemeron

Spells (5)
Aether Spellbomb
Runed Stalactite
Careful Consideration
Lands (16)
10 Island

Sideboard (19)
Perilous Research
Auntie’s Snitch
Raven’s Crime
Petals of Insight
Vedalken Dismisser
Syphon Life
Absorb Vis
Spell Snare
Faerie Macabre
Erratic Mutation
Logic Knot
Festering Goblin

Round 10—Jon


In G1 I kept five lands with Mothdust Changeling and Kira—but Jon took Kira with Tidehollow Sculler and I never recovered. It was a bad keep, and I think keeping hands like these—serviceable, and with the right color of lands, but without much action—is one of the weakest points of my game. I really need to tighten up and learn to ship these unwinnable hands.

In G2 I boarded out Echoing Truth and Riftwing Cloudskate for 2X Erratic Mutation. I had a strong start with 2X suspended Errant Ephemeron, but he starting chaining rebels into each other and got out two Rathi Trappers, plus a ton of other rebellious creatures. On my last turn, when he was at six life and I had Deepcavern Imp in hand, I drew Scion of Oona—but I didn’t have enough mana to do everything I wanted to do, and I came up lacking. After the match he said he was worried that I had Echoing Truth to bounce both of his Trappers, but alas—I’d boarded it out. 7-3—and out of contention for the Pro Tour. I was a little bummed at this point, but making day two is still new for me, so I was just happy to keep on playing and try to do my best. Also, free Modern Masters drafting!

Round 11—Carl


Carl was on domain/sunburst, with three Skyreach Mantas and three Etched Oracles. I kept up the tempo in G1 and bounced his 5/5 Manta multiple times for the win. In G2 I had a slow start and Carl ran over me with his Mantas. In G3 I had a sick curve of Spellstutter Sprite—countering his Pyrite Spellbomb—into a prowled Latchkey Faerie, into a second prowled Latchkey Faerie, into Scion of Oona and Aether Spellbomb, bouncing his Manta and swining in to drop him to five life. The next turn finished was but a formality. 8-3

Round 12—Gabe


Gabe Carleton-Barnes, or GCB to his friends, is a very good Magic player I’d heard of from the Limited Resources podcast, although I didn’t let him know this during our match; I don’t like to give up unnecessary information to my opponents. Maybe that’s stupid, but hey—once I sat next to Sleater-Kinney’s own Corin Tucker at a wedding, and I thought it was weird to instantly be like, “I know who you are,” so I got into a conversation with her about what she does and etc., and the band never came up—which itself ended up being a little weird, but what are you gonna do? So anyway, Gabe: I lost in two games to his very strong UW artifacts deck. Gabe assembled a sick combo situation against me with Faerie Mechanists, Sanctum Gargoyles, and the like. He also had Reveillark, Test of Faith, and Otherworldly Journey. I boarded into Faerie Macabre to deal with Reveillark targets, as well as another Swamp, Spell Snare (for Test and Otherworldly), and Erratic Mutation. We had a game in G2, but he out-card-advantaged me and there wasn’t much to be done. Sidenote: Gabe was a really nice and personable guy, and you guys should all check out his awesomely named podcast, Card Talk (previously This American Life Total, until the jackbooted NPR fascists told them to cease and desist). 8-4

Draft No. 2

So, starting out the day 1-2 wasn’t how I’d drawn it up. But I was resolved to do my best to win out, and hopefully match my record (12-4) from GP Pittsburgh. However, this draft was a bit more of a mess. After first-picking a Vedalken Shackles, I sort of got myself straddled between sunburst and affinity, and thus wasn’t able to get enough blue cards to max out the Shackles, nor find the fixing I needed to make my three Skyreach Mantas any good—or even worth playing; they ended up in my board. Here’s the deck:

Artifact-Recursion UWr Hot Mess

Creatures (12)
Sanctum Gargoyle
Riftwing Cloudskate
Arcbound Stinger
Etherium Sculptor
Myr Retriever
Court Homunculus
Arcbound Worker
Adarkar Valkyrie
Cloudgoat Ranger

Spells (11)
Vedalken Shackles
Aether Spellbomb
Empty the Warrens
Shrapnel Blast
Path to Exile
Pyrite Spellbomb
Lightning Helix
Lands (17)
Vivid Crag
Terramorphic Expanse

Sideboard (14)
Dispeller’s Capsule
Pyromancer’s Swath
Skyreach Manta
Sudden Shock
Myr Enforcer
Arcbound Wanderer
Lava Spike
Petals of Insight
Etched Oracle
Vivid Creek

Weird, right? I wasn’t sure whether this monstrosity was any good at all, but I knew it would be fun and challenging. And it was.

Round 13—David


I won the first round of draft No. 2 in three games. David was on RW Giants/burn. Game three went to turns, and I won on T3 at a precarious five life. On the last exchange of the match, when he cast Molten Disaster for one, wiping our ground-half of the board, I got back Sanctum Gargoyle when Myr Retriever died. Then I drew Flickerwisp and swung for four with Reveillark, putting him to three life—and then I cast Sanctum, getting back Pyrite Spellbomb, and then Flickerwisped it, getting back a second Pyrite Spellbomb for GGs. 9-4

Round 14—Mike


This good dude was on RB aggro/Goblins. In G1 I got out Vedalken Shackles early and eventually just assembled a loop of Sanctum Gargoyles, Spellbombs, Adarkar Valkyrie, and so on. On one key turn I sacced Garygoyle to Shrapnel Blast his Tombstalker, and brought back Gargoyle with Valkyrie, which in turn brought back another Gargoyle. I swung in for 12 damage the following turn for the win. 10-4

Round 15—[REDACTED]

My last-round opponent was the only somewhat unpleasant match I had all weekend. He was on infinity Executioner’s Capsules, alongside the Faerie Mechanists I’d let slip by me in the draft. While I was able to burn him out with Shrapnel Blast in one game, in the other two I twice made eight goblins from Empty the Warrens, and he twice snap-Echoing Truthed them. The second time, in game three, he had been pretty mana-screwed for a while, but I wasn’t able to get a quick start, either (I think because I had mulled to five on the draw). I was trying to set up a turn wherein I Pathed his 4/4 Epochrasite, cast Pyrite Spellbomb, sacced it to Shrapnel Blast to dome him for five (putting him to 11 life), and then cast Empty the Warrens with a storm count of four—all of which I did, but as I was going to put my eight goblins on the table, he sort of dickishly said, “Don’t. I’m just going to Echoing Truth them.” This he did, and, now that I was fully out of gas, he locked up the game and the draft not long after. 10-5


Team 20-Sided in hating-Magic mode on day two.

And that, my friends, was that. All of my 20-Siders had been gathered around me at the end, and it felt good to commiserate with them before packing it up and heading back to the Palace Station Hotel & Casino for a bite with Matt and Dave before catching the red-eye back to New York. During this last meal, Dave out-of-nowhere exclaimed, “I’m the baby!” in the voice of the baby dinosaur from that bizarre ‘90s sitcom Dinosaurs, and everything was right with the world.


Me, Jones, and Bones.

So, in summation—what have I learned? Where is my game weak? How can I convert day two into top eight?

As I said, I think I need to more aggressively mulligan hands that don’t do anything. My distaste for going down to six or five cards too-often blinds me to the fact that a bad seven may as well be six or five.

I also need to eradicate my propensity to just say “OK” when an opponent goes to kill my creature or do something I don’t like to one of my permanents. What do I have on board? Do I have a sac outlet? Does it matter? Can I blank or fizzle my opponent’s spell by getting rid of its target? I think I let the insta-bad feeling of “my guy is dead” short-circuit my rational, analytical mind, which leaves value on the table. Those are percentage points I need to recapture.

10-5 was good enough for 228th place (out of 4,492) players at GP Vegas—aka, in the top 5.61% of the field.

10-5 was good enough for 228th place (out of 4,492) players at GP Vegas—aka, in the top 5.61% of the field.

I’m sure I have other weak points in my game, but those are my two big takeaways from Vegas. Modern Masters was a format I didn’t have much experience with, so in the future I hope to be able to put in more practice time, which will help. I’m thinking about hitting GP Oakland (Magic 2014) in late August and GP Oklahoma City (Theros) in early October, and I’ll almost certainly have significantly more practice time with both of those sets before then. I’ll also have at least two byes for each event, and maybe even three, if I can figure out how to bump my Planeswalker Point total from 1,113 to 1,500 between now and the end of the season, on August 11.

So, after having made two day twos in the space of season, my next goal is as follows: to finish day one at X-1 (or better, but let’s not go nuts), which will put me in great position to make a run at top eight on day two. Is that ambitious? Sure. But I think I’m steadily getting better as a player, and I think I can get there if I keep putting in the work. Who knows—maybe I can even one day make Rich Stein’s top 100 pro Magic players list. (Spoiler alert: I won’t, but a man can dream. Also I don’t want to miss a chance to plug Rich’s awesome and now-very-popular list.)

23/17 is a Hipsters of the Coast column focused on Limited play—primarily draft and sealed, but also cubing, 2HG, and anything else we can come up with. The name refers to the “Golden Ratio” of a Limited deck: 23 spells and 17 lands.

Don't Miss Out!

Sign up for the Hipsters Newsletter for weekly updates.